Sunday, July 26, 2009
Conor Oberst’s former music act, Bright Eyes is moaning some earthy toned “Landlocked Blues,” out of the cheap standard built in speakers standard in most Apple laptops. There’s kids playing guns in the street / one points his treebranch at me / I put my hands up / say enough is enough / and he shot me dead / I found a liquid cure / for my landlocked blues / it will pass away like a slow parade / it’s leavin but I can’t tell how soon” He chirps with that Arkansas drawl that mystifies teenage heart-throbs and listeners galore; a fact proved to me as recently as this month at the Conor Oberst and the Mystic River Band show I saw earlier...but that’s not my point. Although my point does lie in the lyrics.
He’s talking about alcohol. He’s talking about drowning himself in booze and finishing off his island of woes and problems, and it’s a dark, terrifying song when a kid can see through you enough to shoot you dead in the street. He’s talking about saying, “fuck it, take me,” and letting the slow, parade like process of passing away take over. It’s scary. Anyone that knows Conor Oberst, or Bright Eye’s music knows he’s driven by his addictions: lovers, drugs, alcohol. Most of which end with a toxicity point higher then he’d like to remember. His detox, a combined efforts of Bright Eye’s final album: “Casadega,” to the transformation to the Mystic River Band, Conor’s clean, now. “Landlocked Blues,” is a gem off of the album, “I’m Wide Awake, and It’s Morning,” which was my first Bright Eyes record. Maybe that’s why this rainy setting is washing me in overwhelming waves of nostalgia.
Like I said, he’s talking about alcohol, but I’m not. I’m talking about the rain, it’s my liquid cure. I’ve been sitting in a four walled office all day, hell, I could use some intangibles. I can see how perfect each droplet is: they know nothing of the ground, they’ve got no sense of our world. Rain is a social motion, as if one were to say to the other, “It’s all down from here,” but what is here anyways? Rain gets put down only to ascend back up; the perfect life cycle, right before my very imperfect eyes. They even hit the ground with grace, it’s not like an acorn falling, with a loud and fatal crack against pavement, or a body with that sickening thud followed most likely by some prepubescent cry for help. It’s just a patter, a relevant tapping that if synced up enough, sounds like a music box that’s four years out of tune. The tempo is universally consistent; I mean, the whole bunch might speed or or slow down, but that bad snare drum isn’t any more off then the rest of the orchestra so to speak.
It’s dark too. There are two light poles in front of me, not even on the street which I think would ruin this scene. One taller then the other, it’s almost like a bright yellow earth and moon, fogged by the rain burning off steam from the hot glass bulbs. It’s literally transfixing to stare into, overwhelming to contrast the ring of rainbow forming within the streaking pattern of downward falling sheets of rain, to the blackness around. After all, it is ten thirty in the middle of Ohio; no summer could last this late without superseding into night. There are two rows of trees, forming a walk way up to the front doors that are off to my right, so the effect is lost on me. Instead, I’m treated to a more scenic view: there is a patch of trees right in front of me, and through the wet mess of branches I can see the other row, and through that I can make out another lamp on the other side. That one’s a little eerie; vague almost. The outline of leaves is almost more definite then the lightbulb itself.
I shift my weight, growing slightly uncomfortable from sitting for almost a half hour of observation; the heavy table booms as it’s legs compensate for an inequality in the length of legs. It sounds like thunder but I’m wrong. I still wish it was. The thunder could be the simple country beat going alongside “Landlocked Blues,” and like that I snap back to my purpose of watching the scene in front of me play out: something in the marriage of this song and this rain is bothering me.
I look out into the street, almost nervous to find kids armed to the teeth with twigs, but there’s nothing but a small flowing creek of rain water making its way down Home Street. I take a moment to wonder if it’s flowing with the same amount of meandering fervor up by where I live, and how long it will take me to get home. The more I look at this makeshift ravine, the more the metaphor falls into place: here passes my slow parade. How long it will take to pass is reliant on how long the unstable Ohio weather wants to keep raining, which, could be any amount of time. I could use a cleanse anyway.
I’m going to put on Arcade Fire’s “Keep the Car Running” and go dance in the street.
Okay, so I played it twice, it wasn’t long enough to accomplish what I wanted too.
Yes it did, it was fucking magical.
I’m exhausted, part because it’s been a long day part because I really went for it out there. I’m breathing heavy, but it’s okay. It’s not the scary kind where there’s no chance for survival: hot air goes out, hot air comes in, the hopeless power struggle of breathlessness. It just feels nice, like every exhale is secretly an accomplished sigh, each breath in a cool comfort from the rainy air. It’s almost a blessing to be out here right now; I’m glad I’m sitting again.
I really do feel cleaner though, cleansed, pure. My liquid cure has proved itself to be a solid prescription. I also was able to identify my aliment. I’ve been suffering loneliness. It’s hard enough to identify yourself as half a person made complete in a relationship; imagine severing those bonds. And I mean, who hasn’t missed someone or something before, but it’s been getting harder and harder the closer I come to being reunited with my partner. I begin to wonder, to think terrifying thoughts:
Will I be less the person she remembers me as?
Will she have found someone better then me?
Will she realize how she could do better?
Will I have forgotten how to kiss her on the neck the way I know she loves?
And it begins to hurt, it makes sleeping hard, it makes staying awake a chore, it adds complication to something as simple as clear skies.
And then it all snaps into place in my head. Somewhere underneath the mat of damp hair the cogs of my imagination are turning and I’m not overanalyzing a perfect relationship towards troubled seas and dramatic icebergs surely big enough to sick our ocean-liner hearts steadfast on making port on time or early. I can even ignore the poppy Phantom Planet’s lo-fi “Lonely Day,” which reminds me every morning “I can tell from the minute I woke up it’s gonna be a lonely / lonely day / rise and shine rub the sleep out of my eyes and tell myself I can go back to bed.” As if I needed another reminder, but I can face facts: she’s gone, for a long time, and she’s pretty far away, and I can’t really cross state lines easily. Or make it to New England.
But this rain, this on and off rain. It’s as inconsistent as lines on an equalizer when I play music too loudly, something about it is having no problems washing my troubles away. I listen a little bit closer to Phantom Planet, “Even though the sun is shining down on me and I should feel about as happy as can be / I just got here and I already want to leave” and I realize, freaking Phantom Planet gets it, why can’t I?
That romance under a full sun and blue skies bullshit has never been my thing. We kiss in the dark, lying in the grass, under the moon, in the rain. And I am satisfied with my liquid cure.
I turn around in my mind, completely cleansed with an after sense of euphoria as the rain, not only for the purposes of this essay but also luring me out of cover and into the street. My toes are still wet, but my almost-dry shoulders are collecting warmth from the lamps. The poles are like their own black and plastic Atlases, bearing worlds of illumination above them. I see nothing but light in these worlds: moments of joy, sadness, loneliness.
“Put ‘em up! Reach for the stars! One move and I’ll blast you dead!”
There is an army of children surrounding me; armed like a mob of insurgents with sticks, branches, trees they’ve pulled out of the moist earth and all aimed directly at me. Shit, I think, this is my moment, do or die or these kids are going to see right through me and pop me once in the heart and once in the head. I am struck with a moral decision: I can show weakness like poor ballad crooning Conor Oberst, find refuge in the bottle and let this children’s gun game overpower me; or I can rationalize, give definition to my attackers.
I turn the tables, satirize and critique the very creation of my mind that is attacking me. Each acorn and branch that strikes me is my own poking sense of longing. Loneliness is the forest that has taken root and seed in my heart and spread around my whole condition. I analyze in the silence and comfort of friends’ company days after the events of the rain, and the dance, and the songs that generate some kind of dramatic thought process thinking me down my way into the jungle of absence; I realize.
The rain is something beautiful, as pretty as a scene of reunion that I will undoubtedly see in a few days. It is my liquid cure, my detox from the unavoidable armies of loneliness that has been assaulting my heart. No amount of comforting sunshine can was that away like the rain can. I walk confidently to the beat of the slow parade, be it the racing pools of hopeful water dreaming of conception with fertile grass, or the busy rush of catching a Connecticut-bound airplane in the early morning in Columbus.
My Landlocked Blues are simple and obvious, I miss my partner. Something every couple should suffer but never for too long. I’ve done a fairly effective job in realizing this that I should avoid the whole, ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder,’ bullshit. But it’s true, it’s like the question Shakespeare poses with Romeo and Juliet, ‘is it better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all?’
I have both, loved and lost, and never loved at all. I am content with this absence in the long term consideration of a lifetime. Fonder? Absolutely, but I feel like any good couple shouldn’t have to endure some agonizing trial like this to determine their fidelity and commitment to each other.
I dream of an ocean, a visualization to help the metaphor this song generates going. I am on a small island, but unlike the tropic paradise the mind would usually see, it is a city block, cold, rainy, Chicago by the factory row in the winter; and just that. The rest is a tempest f rising waters. It begins to rain and I am worried about drowning in my isolation; then I realize and accept that it is just my love, as she saturates me and cleanses my sadness away. The city block becomes more opportune, Broadway not Cannery Row and I realize I am at him with her in this perciptation. The globes are glowing, those noble Atlases’ holding the weight of light to keep the darkness from negating my sudden happy thoughts. I am missing her but, she isn’t gone. Poor Conor Oberst had a different opinion on the matter: his solution was not patience, silence, loneliness, his was an alcoholic binge. But that’s not my story to tell, it is a drama that belongs to him.
So listen to his “Landlocked Blues,” once you’ve finished mine.
Friday, July 17, 2009
hint fiction (n) : a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story
Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.
It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.
The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.
We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.
Take a look at the winners and honorable mentions of the Hint Fiction Contest for examples.
Payment is $25 per story for World and Audio rights.
Reprints? Sure, but unless you’re one hundred percent confident in the reprint, why not try to write an original piece?
For formatting purposes, you must include a title (which actually works in your benefit, as the title helps give a better “hint” of the overall story).
Writers can only submit up to two stories, both embedded in the same e-mail. Don’t worry about a cover letter. We don’t care where you’ve been published or what graduate program you’ve attended — all author identification will be stripped by a third party so we will only see the stories and nothing but the stories.
To make everyone’s lives easier, embed the stories like this:
Submissions will open August 1 and close at midnight Eastern time August 31. A submissions e-mail address will appear on this page on August 1 — DO NOT SUBMIT TO ANY OTHER ADDRESS BEFORE THEN.
Please note that due to the expected volume of submissions, we will be forced to respond with form letters.
Thank you, and good luck.
***For a limited time, if you link to these guidelines on your blog or Twitter, you can submit a third story. These must be posted between July 1 and August 15. Include the link at the end of your e-mail. If you don’t include a link, the third story will be deleted unread.***
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
and I begin to regret exploring the suburban jungle today;
pollen and his friends are attacking me with rocks and I’m getting stoned,
wishing I could pop a few anti-allergens and call it a night, hell,
I’d sleep better anyhow.
The creek is exploring the curves of my home like a cat licking it’s wounds
from a midnight scuffle with a raccoon; or; two young kids trying out kissing
with tongues for the first time.
I wonder how free flowing my mind would be(like on some kind of opiate,
or hallucinogen or anti-allergen)were it not clogged with the muck and murky
haze of my dissatisfied congestion, let alone the blur of watery eyes.
My phone isn’t ringing and I have to admit, I don’t mind today. What would I say?
I’m just out for a stroll.
I went to breakfast but the bastard stood me up.
Just had to cash a check at the bank; not my usual branch though.
I’m home for the week. Well not home just where I was born.
I’m rediscovering myself again.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
old poland ohio
I wonder what has taken the place,
of my midnight walker's pace;
has some other
found the kind of solace I did
From streets under the cover of canopy,
and does this walker sigh,
when he sees the moon and the stars
like I never can so close to the city I
live in now
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Expect a few reproductions of these entries, just for kicks.
That humming, it was always in the background. Imagine lying in a field of sunflowers, or out on a baseball field late at night watching the clouds pass underneath the moon’s watchful gaze, or running through some crazy park covered head to toe with tulips, each feeding into pleasant beehive after pleasant beehive. Yet, that humming was always there. We’d talk about family, he’d tell stories, and all we could do was our best to hear his old voice singing over that hum.
There was laughter, that was what most mingled with the hums, then of course was the beeping and the knocking and the whispering, but those were on an even lower level of audibility. That humming rang in our ears for a long time, but was unlike any ambient sound we’d ever heard, because we always heard it. It wasn’t like the house at the Cape, the waves at high tide after night, or the flat in New York ringing with Broadway traffic and Broadway noise, or anywhere else we lived because all those noises went away.
But that humming was a constant reminder. Until one morning, it was just him and I. And that humming stopped. When it was finally quiet, long after the moment had passed, I could hear it echoing, he was quoting Frost: “and I have promises left to keep, and I have miles to go before I sleep.” And then the humming was gone.
A young man is sitting in front of what seems to him, like a thousand faces, all begging to be closer, to see him. There’s no way, no chance in hell this...this mob is here for me. “We love your new book.” It’s my only book; I’m going to kill my publisher. A book signing? Damn it. Damn it all. The young man fidgeted, he was in his early twenties, wearing a brown blazer, wearing a dark blue polo underneath, completing the look with tan slacks and a pair of Converse All Stars. “He’s wearing his brown shoes today.” The crowd moved closer and closer to the table and the books piled like walls around him disappeared quite fast. He looked over desperately at a knock-out blonde standing over in the corner with the book store’s manager. Well she’s just having a royal laughing fit, I’ll show her! Lost in his thoughts, Anthony DeGenaro autographed book after book, a collection of poetry for the fleets of admirers.
“We’re going to make a killing today,” the manager said to the blonde, “Krista, this is unbelievable.”
“Dennis, what’s unbelievable is how I can still tell he thinks the collection is, how would he say...”
They together at the same time mouth “rubbish” and laugh.
“I don’t think he expected anything like this so early, I mean, the Village Voice and the NYU Hatchet, and something like every liberal arts magazine on the east coast wanted his poems, but...”
“Krista, its incredible. God I hope Border’s doesn’t drop his publishing company. We’re going to make a killing.”
Dennis trailed off counting figures on book sales and double and triple sales percentages crowded his head. Krista glanced lovingly over at the poor, attention overloaded poet surrounded by a million post-grad students looking for something to show off to their psychology major roommates, and strolled out of the reading room and towards the Starbucks on the third floor. It was like walking into a different environment. There’s nobody up here, I’m so proud of him. She thought trying to pick out an iced mocha off the seemingly endless wall, he’s going to be so mad tonight. She couldn’t resist a chuckle while handing the cashier the change.
She smiled warmly while drinking the coffee; Krista’s entire life was a collection of adverbs: warmly, lovingly, sweetly, adoringly, completely. They were the perfect pair, married straight out of college from their liberal arts university that happened to foster Tony’s English curriculum, her Theater studies, and their love. Some would have called it rushing, but the moment their three year engagement was over, anyone could tell how happy Tony and Krista were; no more days of cross state commutes by (at the end of their last summer apart) every means of public transportation and finally Tony’s run down car. They stole off, so to speak, to a gorgeous flat in the East Village on Manhattan Island, where in the fall, Tony began his graduate studies towards his PHD.
One of Krista’s adverbs was luckily; luckily, their landlord didn’t mind if rent came in one or three months late; luckily, when Tony’s computer crashed just the day before he sent the document to Krista to read because she was feeling a little ill; luckily, Krista met Dominique Gurrez on the street reading Tony’s second poem in the Village Voice when he dropped his hand bag and screamed “I must have you!” to which first earned him a violent slap across the face but later a leading actress in his series of plays showing in every indie theater on the island. This is where the adverbs change, and finally, Krista is cast in her first Broadway show, during the first year of Tony’s thesis. His paper was Kerouac’s America: Here to There and Krista’s show was a new run of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a show for which she knew some of the minor lines, but ultimately had to rehearse the more prominent ones (for Coset, for any fans out there).
It was in this way of methodic enchantment and fortune that Krista, Tony and their dog, a terrier mutt mix named Rufus lived out the first years of a very happy marriage. It was those days leading up to Tony finally completing that master work, his own personal Wasteland.
And she smiled warmly, as the clock struck six, and the ushers started pushing out all the hipsters, intellectuals, poetry buffs and kids geeking out over their first celebrity. Finally, Dennis was walking Tony towards her, locked in a hand shake lasting from one side of the room to another.
“Tony, can I call you Tony? Yes, its fantastic stuff really, really appropriate for the times, cutting stuff...”
“Thanks Dennis,” Tony sounded exhausted. And looked it: the bags under his eyes were darker then ever, quite the contrast of his currently bright blue eyes. His hair was a mess, long and as his mother would call it, a mop dripping because of the sweat some three hundred and forty five people, according to Dennis’ original count, would bring to one’s forehead.
“Say Tony, what are you doing next Friday?” Dennis asked flipping thorough his pocket book, finally disengaging the handshake.
“Nothing that I can think....” Shit, he thought, shit.
“How about a reading? We’d pay you a percent of book sales.” Dennis and Rufus had a lot in common. Tony couldn’t really say no.
“Sure, but I have to go home or I think I’m going to die.”
Krista, operating on what Tony jokingly called perfect wife syndrome marched over, scooped Tony out of the wolf’s mouth and led him to the door. Dennis called over, “It was a great event. So successful...”
Krista hailed a cab, turned and placed a delicate red kiss on Tony’s cheek, “You looked wonderful.”
“Thanks for the rescue,” he mumbled, “Let’s get dinner, Thai?”
“Sure,” and she told the driver the best route to their favorite place to get curry, she was in a curry mood. He just glanced at her, too tired form the long day of “To Janet, to Daryl with pride, to Stef, Greg loves you, to little Billy from one poet to another,’s” to really think about much. But he always had the energy to admire his young wife’s hair: he would describe it in a poem as a “brilliantly cascading waterfall of daffodil yellows and sun bleached sand on a quite Cape beach,” but in this cab cruising through Times Square, he could only say pretty.
She had this smile, it was as quiet as a whisper and the cab driver couldn’t avoid but notice, it was so full of care and love, and she shot it right at him. “That went pretty well,” he said to her, as her hands covered his, which were still shaking. Damn anxiety, Tony thought, I can’t stand a crowd, and she knows it.
“Tony, you’re still shaking,” she said smiling even more warmly.
“I’d say it’s because of you, but you’d laugh it off,” he said smirking, “you know all my tricks these days.”
“I didn’t know half of New York loved your work!”
“Yeah, well, you’re turn’s coming soon; when is that audition?” He asked, aggravated at himself for forgetting again.
“Thrusday, today is Tuesday,” she giggled, she was teasing him as usual.
If they didn’t visit the restaurant so much they’d of laughed at each other until the cab drive stopped and threw them out in Yonkers.
Two young kids are lying on their backs looking at the roof of an old park atrium. One leans over to the other and says, you have to die first. I don’t want you to live a day without me. I can’t leave you alone. That’s a promise.
They swear on it with pinkies and its Mom’s favorite memory.
The apartment is exactly as the couple left it: tidy. A lot of Tony’s anxieties disappeared slowly the more time he spent with Krista, but some things would never change. They called it organized chaos, but don’t be fooled, pots and pans were stacked in ascending order for them to cook any number of favorite recipes or the books were alphabetized and color coded. Tony had promised himself he’d never let his place become messy.
He was very good with keeping promises.
“Tony!” Krista yells from their bedroom, “Come here!”
Tony goes booking off into the bedroom expecting his Salinger collection to have disappeared like the old man himself, “What?”
“I just wanted to lie down together.”
Thursday morning was hectic: Rufus was skittering all kinds of crazy around the apartment, Krista was applying last minuet make up and Tony was finishing a late night at his computer working on his next big hit. God I hope she does okay today, he thinks while his keystrokes meander from some drama he was drawing up and he began to type my litle star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star
“Tony?” She calls out to him quietly from the bedroom.
“Yeah?” He says walking to the oak door, “What’s up?”
“Are you going to walk me down to Empire?” She’s making those eyes again. She wants me to say no, but I can’t let her walk down to Broadway alone, not today.
Not any day, she thinks.
“Of course I am.”
“Then put on some shoes, I’m ready!” And in a flurry she has scooped up her scripts and head shots, kissed his cheek and bounded out the door. Tony, somewhat taken aback from the whirlwind of activity takes his time lacing up white Converse to go against his blue jeans, white t shirt and blue cardigan.
The fall air is perfect, dry leaves from Central Park are on the air; it’s cold enough to warrant Krista’s white trench. Tony laughs, always cold she was.
“So tell me about this theater. Empire? Is this going to be it’s first show?”
“That’s right boo, and I might be in it!” She is smiling, she has never been this excited for an audition before. I can’t decide wether to be excited or nervous, Tony thinks.
“That’s exciting!” He says making up his mind over that smile of hers.
“Tell me how we met.”
It’s a question they both often visit, but for some reason on that morning that would arguably make or break Krista’s acting career and shape the rest of their lives, this question was strange. Almost disarming.
“Well, it was in the winter of our freshman year. I walked up to you after that class we had together and reminded you how single I was. It was horrific.”
“I think it’s cute.”
“You tease me every day about it.” Its true, she did.
“What happened next?”
“Well, a few weeks later I tricked you into going to dinner with me, we talked, went back to your room and talked more. You gave me a copy of your headshot, which I left on your desk, on purpose-”
“I did. Anyways, I went and stood outside of your building, and then called you, and asked for what I had left. You knew exactly what I was talking about, the picture, and you brought it right down to me, but were freezing. I was soaking in my peacoat. So I offered you the coat, well, I offered to hug you in the coat. Next thing I know you’re kissing me.”
“It wasn’t so bad...”
“You had me on my toes, I didn’t know what I was saying.”
She giggled. She found it charming how nervous I could still get over it, Tony thought. Then he really began to remember how those first few months went.
“A few weeks later I was walking past your building later on in the evening, and I saw your window was open and shouted for you. You looked a little perplexed, to have some idiot kid shouting up to your window.”
“You weren’t some idiot kid,” she squeezed his hand.
“And I yelled, ‘I’m in love with you,’ and you came running down and we went to see if the bleachers were unlocked so I could show you Columbus from the tops, but they were locked. So we walked down to the park, and up into the atrium. I had all my computer stuff from my radio work I was doing earlier, so I told you to shut your eyes and put on Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” and we danced, for what seemed like the best hours of my life. Then you looked into my eyes and told me what I had waited the few weeks we’d been dating to hear: I love you.”
The ticket booth of the Empire was in front of them, and although Tony would never admit it, he seemed to have mastered timing when telling stoires.
“Go knock ‘em dead, you already got the part, they just need to do the paper work.”
“How many times have you told me that?” Krista asks him smiling.
“How many shows have you done since freshman year?” He said smiling brighter.
“I’ll see you soon boo. I love you,” and she turned to walk into the theater.
“I love you too Krista, my little star,” but it was an hushed comment said maybe only for Tony’s own anxious benefit. There was nothing he loved more then seeing her on stage, but nothing he hated left then the disappointment she tried so hard to hide from him. The nature of both their businesses was disappointment and rejection. Tony felt guilty for the acclaim over his book, but knew she was supportive. How couldn’t she be? It had been this perfect since the beginning, since that skinny legged kid fumbled through his French vocabulary to ask her to go steady with him in some kind of Clark Gable fashion.
She laughed the whole way to “yes,” and then gave him the warmest hug he’d ever felt.
All these thoughts chased Tony all the way back to the Village and to his desk: my little star a big star my little star a big star and a blinking cursor. Tony, instead of erasing his page, simply started on a new blank screen. He was working on his next big thing: a collection of short essays, critical and reflective. Tentatively titled, “Short Stories for Long Drives,” it was yet another subtle nod to his life with Krista, dedicated to all the story ideas he had while making the twelve hour commute to Connecticut. So far, he had three critical essays and a finished draft of his award winning piece he started in college, “Why I Write.”
This was how a lot of Tony DeGenaro’s days were spent; in front of the computer. It could have been rehearsal, auditions, any number of errands Krista was running (but Tony always insisted they grocery shop together) that left Tony and his writing to themselves. Her key in the door would perk him up in ways that even Rufus couldn’t match with excitement on most days. They were as much in love in New York as they were at college. Their relationship was something to be envied by anyone.
It was her dream. And It came true. That was another of Mom’s favorite memories. Which one? Could have been any really.
“Is Krista DeGenaro there?” A dull, artisan voice asked through the telephone.
“No she’s out this is Anthony, who is this?” Tony asked with a false gruff.
“Wait. Anthony DeGenaro the author Anthony DeGenaro?”
“The very one. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I just have a date I need your wife to mark in her schedule.”
“July 5th, full cast meeting at the Empire.”
“Does that mean?”
An apple spilled from the bag of groceries dropped when he told her. Tony had been waiting all day for Krista to get back, to share the good news. He cleaned the apartment, twice. He put on their favorite record to dance too, and he fancied up his usual dress to a little fancier. She screamed, she dropped the groceries; it didn’t matter, Tony would take her out to dinner every night for the rest of her life for this.
“I got the part!?” She shouted somewhat in disbelief.
“The very part! Your dream role!”
They shouted and jumped and hugged and kissed and danced and it worked out because even before they had met had both loved “The Phantom of the Opera,” and it was just what the director was looking for, the Krista kind of talent that he wanted to portray Christine, the lead role. They danced all night and fell asleep on the couch trying to catch the sun rising that morning. They feel asleep at 7:43 AM. Farmer’s Almanac’s for that day claimed the sun rose at 8:03 AM. This seemed to be a habit for the two.
Dad got her something like one hundred dozen roses, so many they ended up just lining the streets with them
Sophie, I think that is one of the stories they exaggerated for you when you were younger.
Maybe. It’s still nice. Even if it was the usual one dozen roses.
After a year long run of “The Phantom of the Opera,” Krista was a wildly praised actress and the two ended up having no choice but to pursue more of their dreams. Los Angeles was so close to the western fantasies Tony always had that he couldn’t resist sticking to his word of going where ever Krista needed to. She’d gotten several movie offers and it was time to act, no pun intended.
It was only a few weeks after they settled into a new apartment in a new city that Tony began teaching Creative Writing at UCLA. It was a poetry focus course, the Dean wouldn’t have him doing anything else. But secretly, Tony admitted to liking the intro level and one hundred level courses.
“I just like the students when they are fresh,” he once said to Krista over some toast and oatmeal on a chilly December morning.
“Why’s that boo?” She asked in between bites full of blueberry jam.
“Well, the poetry kids already think they can write it; that’s why they took the course. The intro kids either don’t care or care enough to take entry level and learn from the bottom up. I like that.”
“You like kids that don’t care?”
“No, but I like the challenge.” Tony said grinning.
“Here’s a challenge: stop snoring.”
“Always the wit; what are you doing today?”
“Buying you groceries and making dinner.”
“Because we’ve been married for three years now.” Krista said smiling as wide as her rosy lips could.
“Which reminds me...”
“Oh no, what did you do this year?”
Tony began to giggle. She is completely oblivious! He thought.
Krista was on the edge or her seat, completely ignoring the toast and jam that had so captivated her moments earlier.
“You hate the beach, wait, which island?”
“All of ‘em.” Tony said with a triumphant grin.
The squeal of delight was like music to their ears. Even Tony couldn’t help but admit he was excited to be going to the tropics, for if any reason, it made her happy and would give him something worth while to write about.
They danced around the new apartment just like in New York, but with less cockroaches and a much more impressive view from their eighty-seventh story penthouse provided by Miramax for her film. That old dusty Bright Eyes record was so far from being scratched though, it was as if the vinyl Tony had picked up at a concert once would last longer then they would.
“I love you so much Tony, happy anniversary.” She whispered through giggles, tears and finally, a kiss.
“I love you too Krista.”
After their exotic beach getaway Tony produced another collection of poetry (“Island Things,”) and a novel (“Maggie Fynn”) and Krista had one more summer blockbuster under her belt before the two moved back to the east coast. It was the east coast, they agreed, where I would be raised, and then later Sophie too. We were in New York, Connecticut and parts of Ohio for a few years depending on which university dad could deal with the longest. A gap in the story falls right around here because this is not my story, this is not Lennon’s or Sophie’s time; but my father’s.
I was off to Brown studying theater and Sophie was abroad for a semester in London studying when they moved back west. Tony had finally won the Arizona argument.
Cactus. Cacti. Everywhere. I can get used to this, Tony thought while surveying the Tucson desert one night a few months after he and Krista settled down yet again. Their nights were often spent in chairs on the balcony, but more so with Krista falling asleep while Tony read some novel or criticism. I love falling asleep while he works, she would always think, I can almost hear him reading, the words sinking in eliot was a proficient figure in the modernist movement but I can feel him waiting for me to fall asleep.
“Tony, how do I wake up in bed every morning? We fall asleep out here so often.” She asked him, tearing out of her thoughts.
“Well, I carry you to bed, tickle you wildly, you wake up and pull my hear, and then fall right back asleep.”
“I’d remember that.”
“Maybe part of that is just something I’ve always wanted to do.” Tony says grinning. He’s still got that charm even this late in the game. His grey hair would not do good under the strain of pulling, and tickling; that might end in a bad coughing fit.
But that night, and that night alone, they overstep all adversity to act like kids again. After all, the love between has only gotten stronger; otherwise they still were kids at heart.
“Now, as much as I love to get sunburns on my way to work, I have bad news class.”
Aww, what prof-
“What did I say about calling me professor?”
It makes you feel old prof. Mr. D.
“Much better. Now, my bad news, if you’ll so kindly allow me. This is my last week here in Arizona. We’re moving back to the east coast.”
Whyyyyyy? The students endlessly cried, thinking of the adjunct professor that would in no way match their great teacher Tony DeGenaro.
“My mother’s cooking is better then all these damned tacos I’ve been eating. That’s it.”
The real reason was a lung complication that Tony would only trust his old doctor dealing with.
Everybody was together, all of us. The humming, not as loud this time. Sophie and I had to leave, but mom stayed the whole time. Even after the doctors said he’d be fine. She would lay in bed with him, hold him, cry for him.
This is not me dying, Tony would tell himself every day as he nervously eyeballed the IV’s sticking out of his arm. She would kiss his eyes knowing he was looking at the needles, that even in his older age bothered him so. The doctors determined that it was in no way lung cancer, no cancer. Just asthma taking it’s long term toll; a quick fix, a few drugs, inhaler as needed, and Tony would be back on his feet.
One night when things were far worse off, Krista was trying hard no to cry. She was petrified. “Tony?”
“I love you.” She whispered trying so hard to hold back.
“You’re worried,” he said.
“Of course,” she looked about to slap him, “Of course I’m worried about you!”
“I made you a promise. This isn’t it.”
Call him stubborn, but it wasn’t. Pretty soon he was back with her in a nice house in New England. Tony admitted it was the perfect place to launch books. Four poetry collections, two novels, a collected letters (all to Krista) and one play later; he only liked Cape Cod for the weather.
Some years after their fiftieth wedding anniversary, they were both officially retired. Tony would mail me and Sophie poems every now and then and Krista gloated to have quite the growing collection, but nothing that brought him any more acclaim. They were getting old; very old. The only thing that seemed to change between the two was their bodies. The love, the passion, the fun, none of that ever had a chance at diminishing.
They would go out and play in the water, sit in the sun, read, talk and hold each other on those colder nights. This is how forever goes, both would frequently think, imagining themselves younger, more full of energy determined to fight to get back to this moment of tranquility. This lasted for years
“Perfect,” Tony told her one day, “is being able to change your existence but choosing not to.”
Krista took his wrinkled hand in hers, “This is perfect.”
This lasted their lives.
my little star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star my little star a big star
It was years later that Anthony DeGenaro realized the irony of his pet name for the love of his life, he turned it into a rhyme that ended in my little star in heaven.
He would poke through his library in his empty house, and read his various about the author pages.
“Tony DeGenaro is happy and in love with you Krista.”
“Tony DeGenaro is a graduate student at New York University studying both literature and creative writing. He has been writing poetry his “whole life” and is popular on the beatnik club reading scenes in the East Village, where he lives with his wife and “muse,” Krista.”
“Anthony DeGenaro is the critically acclaimed author of Collected Essays, Beatnik Prayer and Maggie Fynn and several other collections and novels. He lives in Tucson with his wife Krista, who is a famous actress in several feature films today.
“Anthony DeGenaro is a PhD professor and author of several imporant literary works of the last few decades. He is father of two and husband of one, living in Cape Cod.”
“Tony is sad. Krista is gone.”
It was anything to pass the time. Days became weeks and weeks, months, months years and so on. Tony wrote a little bit, traveled a little bit, did a little bit of everything. He had loved Krista with all his heart, and as unprepared for how he was for her death, he knew he had done right by being the one to endure this loss. Better me then her be miserable, after all, I told that kid in that crazy park back where we danced, I would do this so she never missed a day with me, he thought.
I’m an old fool.
A few more years went by with a few accomplishments to each, and he rose to each with pride. He had always talked about beautiful things he saw, things in life that were just passed by usually. He loved to share them with us, with Krista, when he was still writing the world. With this spare time he would discover all the things he had left to see, and he would go back to Wethersfield and tell her all about them.
He was always a big talker; they would chat through dark, cold, snow and rain. Sometimes all night. But it was never too dark, she was always covered with roses. And he always thought of when they were young, still counting days when they would be reunited from summer vacation, winter recess, anything. He thought a lot about those days.
How happy, how in love. Nothing had changed as far as he was concerned.
And here we are now, three years later. Each breath he took, he was said
“Krista, I’m breathing for you,”
but eventually it became too hard to live for two. He wrote that he didn’t mind, for obvious reasons, that his life had been full of love, that it had been good enough for us. We couldn’t agree more. His lungs were crippled, there was no avoiding the fact that soon, Anthony DeGenaro would die.
There was a dismal hum, as we talked. The ambient noise of a man much needing rest. As I learned some hard lessons I began to understand some happy ones. The fist day of my life was playing on a raspy vinyl like he has requested. they were spreading blankets on the beach, yours was the first face that i saw, i think i was blind before i met you, don’t know where i am don’t know what i can, but i know where i want to go
So he went exactly there. And he took a slip of paper he’d typed years ago on his Stenhouser Typewriter, instructing to place it in his breast pocket.
There are a lot of things people can say about my father; he was a great man, and I’m proud to say I am his son. To be Lennon, to walk in his tremendous shadow.
I revisit what he said, his final whisper amidst the humming in the hospital. “I have promises left to keep, and I have miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Before any other noises happened, I quietly told him: “You kept your promise dad, to all of us, to mom. You can sleep now.” He was tired, but complacent. He had done exactly what he set out to do with his life. Every story he had written, the ones he was still writing, I understood. It was all for Mom. He was a great father to us, to me and Sophie; he gave his life to us, but he never forgot his promise to Mom.
Their love is a model for my sister and I. Sophie and I will do our best to honor him, and we thank you for listening to our story, or tribute; a remarkable story of love. And that is the only way to end his story, right where it begins. Only one way to end my father, Anthony Thomas DeGenaro’s eulogy. With a song.
my little star is a big star my little star is a big star my little star is a big star up in heaven and i am a big dipper. my little star and the big dipper little star big spoon